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Shaping a sustainable future by design

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John Zobrist
Head of Design & Technology

Shaping a sustainable future by design

2014 International Design and Technology conference

In mid-May, in an effort to expand the impact of the team’s commitment to sustainability, UWCSEA East hosted an International Design and Technology (D&T) conference, themed Shaping a Sustainable Future. D&T has provided vibrant learning on our two campuses over recent years as students have learned the power and applications of design thinking, and the conference looked at ways to expand this beyond the realms of UWCSEA.

While D&T as an academic discipline originated in England, the conference demonstrated that some best practice is now taking place in other parts of the world. Working with advice from the D&T Association in the UK, the event successfully blended stimulating keynote presentations with hands on workshops and seminars.

Teachers from over 50 local and international schools around the Asia-Pacific region attended to share ideas and thinking about their subject and their practice. By their own account, many of those who attended are now busy improving learning by reviewing their programmes, changing pedagogy, acquiring new resources, testing ideas and thinking about how they assess the subject:

“I’m changing my entire philosophy for the subject.”

“I am considering writing and proposing a new course based on what I have learned.”

“I have come away inspired to do more. Every aspect of this conference was well considered. I was given informative talks that made me rethink my classroom, and practical strategies to take back and use.”

The conference theme provided opportunities to explore what is meant by sustainability and how it relates to practice. The opening keynote provided food for deep thought as James Pitt from the Ellen MacArthur Foundation1 challenged attendees to think more deeply on what a circular economy means for teaching and learning. For D&T teachers it provided a lens of sustainability for everyday practice and pedagogy, by rethinking their subject.

World-renowned expert on assessment in D&T, Professor Richard Kimbell drew on his lifetime experience to remind participants that whilst feedback and assessment referenced to discrete, specific criteria is effective in targeting feedback to students, we still need to focus on the overall quality of design, and design thinking. The approach he presented was based on the use of ePortfolios and developing a ‘nose for quality’ using comparative analytical tools and following his lecture, Professor Kimbell ran a hands-on workshop for all delegates.

Teachers attending the D&T Conference 'Shaping a Sustainable Future' at UWCSEA East's Centre for International Education  in May 2014.

The conference provided amazing opportunities to observe and to talk about what it means for both learning and teaching in real world practice with experts in the field. Senior leaders from both the UK D&T Association and the IB also attended and used the opportunity to explore with delegates how best they might support members to further grow the already thriving international D&T community. The conference also provided time to connect with suppliers of equipment and resources; at every break delegates could be seen exchanging contacts, ideas and making connections. “The networking was excellent and lots of opportunities provided to share and discuss,” said one delegate, who found this particularly valuable.

The many practical sessions at the conference were enhanced by their setting—both in the newly developed D&T spaces at UWCSEA East, and by being set against the technological backdrop that is Singapore. Delegates felt they were seeing not just the present but the future of the subject and were reminded of how, when D&T is at its best, it provides skills for life in a way no other subject can.

UWCSEA has support for developing a “sustainable future” in our mission, and an exciting collaboration between the Ellen MacArthur Foundation and UWC international is currently being discussed. It is amazing to see how this conference has been so transformative and created connections to improve learning in many ways. There is already significant momentum and numerous connections being made through UWCSEA East Primary, Middle and High School classes, weaving sustainability into several subject areas—including D&T.

1   The Ellen MacArthur Foundation works in education, business innovation and analysis to accelerate the transition to a circular economy. The concept of circular economy thinking refers to a system where no resources are lost, and is presented as an alternative to the prevailing unsustainable linear model that harvests finite resources.

24 Jun 2014
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